California Court Dismisses Employee’s Disability Discrimination Case Based on Signed Waiver of Release
If your employer offers you a “severance” agreement when you are fired or resign, you are almost certainly waiving any right to file a lawsuit related to your employment. If you think you might have a case for wrongful termination, discrimination, or unpaid wages, it is important to consult an employment lawyer before signing the severance.
Recently a state appellate court issued an opinion in a California disability discrimination case, discussing whether the plaintiff’s case was properly dismissed based on the fact that he signed a waiver of release when he voluntarily quit. Ultimately, the court affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s case.
The Facts of the Case
In 2014, the plaintiff began working part-time at Southern California Permanente Medical Group (the “employer”). He was later promoted in 2016. However, later that year, in April, the plaintiff got into an altercation with another employee. As a result of the incident, the plaintiff was admitted to the hospital with an “emotional stress reaction.” In May 2016, the plaintiff applied for workers’ compensation benefits.
Once the plaintiff was released from the hospital, the employer placed him on partial disability leave. At the end of his leave, the plaintiff’s doctor provided him with a note explaining that the plaintiff should not work in the same facility as the other employee involved in the altercation. Thirteen months later, after extending his leave several times, the plaintiff wanted to return to work full time. However, the employer’s policy was that temporary work restrictions only apply to the facility where the employee works, and if the plaintiff wanted to relocate to another facility, he would have to apply for an open position. The plaintiff unsuccessfully applied to several open positions.
While the plaintiff was still on leave, he filed a disability discrimination claim under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. The workers’ comp claim was still pending when he filed the claim. In March 2018, the plaintiff settled his workers’ comp claim with the employer for $45,000. In doing so, he signed a voluntary resignation letter, which included a clause stating he “releases Kaiser from any and all claims, known or unknown, which may exist at the time of execution of this Agreement, and waives any claim to monetary damages that may arise from claims.”
Moving back to the employment discrimination trial, the employer claimed that the plaintiff’s signed release waiver prevented the plaintiff from pursuing his claim. The plaintiff claimed that the employer failed to raise the waiver as an affirmative defense in its responsive pleading and should be barred from raising it at trial. However, the trial court granted the employer’s motion and the plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, the court affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims. The court explained, quite simply, that the agreement the plaintiff signed indicated he was resigning voluntarily and gave up the right to pursue any case against his employer. The court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that he did not want to quit, and only signed the agreement so he could settle the workers’ compensation case. The court explained that, regardless of the plaintiff’s motivations for signing the agreement, he did so knowing what he was giving up.
Have You Been the Victim of California Employment Discrimination?
If you believe that your employer fired you because of your disability, reach out to the McCormack Law Firm. At our San Francisco employment law firm, we aggressively represent employees across Northern California in all types of discrimination and wage-and-hour claims. We understand how important your job is to you and your family, and we will fight to hold your employer accountable at every step of the process. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated employment lawyer about your case, call 415-925-5161. You can also connect with us through our online form.
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